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Give Land To Women Farmers In Order To Fight Food Insecurity

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By Joshua Kato

As the sun rose from behind Mpwede hill, Margaret Nakibuuka, walked down from her house towards her family farm. On her back, her 8-month-old baby hanged on, quietly. She carried an old hand hoe on her right shoulder, a basket plus knife in the other hand.

“I had planted three acres of maize and beans, however, the maize was recently attacked by worms,” she says.

The previous season, Nakibuuka planted the same maize and harvested about 1.5 tonnes. If she had sold it off herself, she would have earned at least sh1m. However, it is her husband who sold it off.

“It is his land though I use it. He gave me sh300,000 and he took the rest, claiming that it was going to cater for domestic needs,” Nakibuuka says.

This is one of the challenges that small-scale women farmers discussed during the Women in Agriculture Conference (WiA) held in Kampala some time back. The conference was organised by ESAFF. The meeting was attended by smallholder women farmers from across the country.

Other challenges highlighted included lack of access to land, domestic violence against women especially soon after the harvest and low access to financial services by women because they lack collate.

“One of the objectives of this conference is to document women’s voices to contribute to the policy influencing strategy for women in agriculture,” Hakim Baliraine, the ESAFF Uganda national chairperson said.

Other objectives included evaluating the progress of commitments made during the previous WiA conference and creating a platform for discussion and sharing of agriculture business opportunities. 

The telling figures

Eighty percent of Uganda’s population survives on farming. With a national population estimated at 42.4 million, it means that at least 30 million depend on agriculture. 

According to figures released at the WiA conference, 76% of farm work in Uganda is carried out by women. However, and rather absurd, when hunger and famine strike, it is the women and children that come off worse compared to men. This is largely because the women do not have control over the sale of the produce.

“As you see, we are the majority. We can stand up and get what is due to us if we are together. It is a matter of raising our voices,” Margaret Masudio Eberu, a farmer from Amuria said at the conference.

Difficult to access bank loans

Like most women, Margaret Namubiru does not own the land on which she practises her farming. It is estimated that smallholder women farmers hold just 4% of the land.

Namubiru’s land is owned by her husband. The fact that most women do not own the land reduces their voice in controlling the earnings from that land and worse still, getting loans to improve farming on their farms.

Namubiru does her farming on a piece of land allocated to her by her husband. However, the allocation was done verbally, so in reality, the husband still owns it. This means that she cannot use it to get money in the banks.

“I hear that there is money put in the budget intended to improve, but I do not have omusingo (security) to give to the bank,” Namubiru says. In the budget, there is a provision of agriculture loans under the Agricultural Credit Facility (ACF) through which farmers can access loans through commercial banks. However, one has to have security like land before accessing this facility.

“Without owning land, it means that we women we cannot access this facility,” she says.

According to the 1998 Land Act, there are five recognised land tenure systems in Uganda. These are; Mailo land ownership, where the owner has a land title and owns land indefinitely; the customary tenure system, where the land is owned communally; freehold system; leasehold system; and public land ownership.

The law does not discriminate between men and women in as far as land rights are concerned. However, it is the traditional beliefs and cultures that change the entire equation.

Traditionally, land ownership is seen as a sign of strength in society and yet, women are not supposed to be strong members of a traditional society. In many tribes in Uganda, women do not own land. 

“It is ironical that women own only a third of the land they use for agriculture,” Stella Tereka, a gender researcher says. This means that women cannot make big financial decisions about the money from the land.

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